New Portal Serves as a Single Point of Access to State’s
The administration and delivery of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs have consistently grown in scope and complexity, while federal welfare reform legislation has redefined program policies and created new opportunities for states to increase ease of access to their assistance programs.
A state’s governor proposed and signed into law a dramatic overhaul of its HHS agencies. The reorganization was designed to improve the quality of and access to state benefits and to streamline service delivery to clients. As the state overhauled its agencies, it also wanted to implement cutting edge technologies and create a new HHS portal.
The state faced considerable technical and business hurdles. First, it had no prior experience with the development and deployment of enterprise-scale J2EE Web application technology. Second, it needed help with the business-side task of conforming multiple application forms.
But the most significant initial hurdle was skepticism that the project would succeed under the proposed time frame. It is not common for government agencies to undertake rapid or lean development, or to significantly transform Web-based transaction capabilities in a matter of months.
Finally, the initiative occurred in the midst of the most significant reorganization of the HHS secretariat in the state’s history, and during a massive tax revenue shortfall. The project mission was executed in very rough water.
We helped the state overcome the obstacles and develop a constituent-friendly, unifying Web portal providing the general public, clients, providers and front-line staff with access to HHS information and services online, in a form structured around their needs, rather than around the state’s complex, multiple-agency HHS organization.
Using the new portal, registered providers can submit an electronic application for multiple programs on behalf of those individuals in need of assistance. Until now, those same providers were required to submit separate paper applications for each program, or clients had to deal with multiple state agencies on their own.
In addition, the portal provides new online tools such as: a searchable catalog with descriptions of the most widely used programs offered among HHS agencies, an anonymous online survey to determine potential eligibility for services and an online common intake data collection tool for registered providers that can collect information from a client in one online form and then generate electronic applications for multiple programs and services.
The online tools are available for a variety of state programs, including the state’s Medicaid program, child care, food stamps, the Women Infants and Children Nutrition program, the Women’s Health Network and substance abuse.
The portal has drastically changed the way citizens and providers interact with the state. It serves as a single access point on the Internet for a wide variety of programs, from health care services to food stamps and child care. Using the information and tools available, consumers, medical providers, community-based organizations and HHS agencies can work together to ensure that people are linked to the programs they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. Citizens and providers benefit from increased efficiency, quality and consistency of service.
In its first year after launch, the portal has successfully processed nearly 14,500 social services applications. About 20,000 screening questionnaires were initiated in the first six months. Of those, nearly 55 percent were determined to be eligible for services. The number of portal users is increasing every month, and the service was expected to be available eventually to more than 300 providers.
The enthusiastic acceptance of the portal has led to the demand for even more features. Release two is slated to include the addition of elderly, disability and veteran services for screening and intake.